Art Dice and the Creative Confidence Book

book creative confidence

Do you have Creative Confidence?

Do you think that some people are just born more creative, or do you believe that we can learn to become more creative? In the newly released creativity and innovation-boosting book, Creative Confidence, authors David and Tom Kelley not only explain that creative super-powers lie within each of us, but they go on to share actionable tools for increasing our abilities to innovate.

Stanford University’s K-12 Lab Network recently invited me to lead a hands-on maker workshop as part of the Creative Confidence book launch party for IDEO founder, David Kelley. If you’re an educator who’s interested in Design Thinking, I promise that you’ll lose hours digging into the d. School’s K-12 Lab and the K-12 wiki.

For the hour that led up to the highly anticipated panel led by David Kelley, we set up a fun creativity-booster with Art Dice in a room just off the main stage.

creative confidence d school

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you may recognize this game as Art Dice. If you’re new-ish to Tinkerlab, here’s the original post.

Art Dice is a fun prompt/tool/game for creating randomly generated art. Every flip of the dice becomes an opportunity to explore art vocabulary, drawing skills, color recognition, and shape identification. With a few changes, these dice could also used to chase away writer’s or artist’s block: Simply roll the dice and draw or write about what pops up. Combine a few dice together and rise to the challenge of combining disparate ideas into a cohesive whole.

art dice setup tinkerlab

Since I needed a few sets of dice, and didn’t have the time to paint six sets of wooden dice (as I did with our original sets), I made paper templates and printed the dice onto heavy card stock. They’re bigger than our original dice, but the scale also makes them playful and visually arresting.

How to Play Art Dice: Round One

The rules: Roll one die. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

We invited our players to roll the line die. The line die includes things like dots, straight lines, zig-zag lines, and a spiral.

With the die rolled, they chose a mark-making tool and had two minutes to interpret the line on their paper. One of the most outstanding parts of this exercise, from an observer’s point of view, is to see the variety of interpretations. 

art dice and creative confidence

Art Dice: Round Two

The rules: Roll two dice. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

For the next round, we rolled the line die and the shape die. Again, participants had two minutes to interpret these images in whatever way they desired.

art dice d school playing

Art Dice: Round Three

The rules: Roll four dice. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

For the last round we invited the players to throw four dice: shape, line, color, and mood. The mood dice included words like curious, excited, and angry. 

From the four tossed dice, players could choose two, three, or four of the dice to work with and create a final composition in two minutes. You can see the variety of interpretations of the prompt in this last photo.

art dice d school group

What we learned

After this quick round of drawing, I asked everyone to share their thoughts on this experience. Here are some of the takeaways:

  1. Creative freedom to experiment: There was no wrong or right way to do this exercise, which offered many participants creative freedom to experiment.
  2. Work did not have to be perfect: The short drawing period (just two minutes) signaled to some participants that their work did not have to be perfect, and gave them leeway to experiment and not feel the need to get it “just right.”
  3. Good for team-building: A few participants suggested that this activity could be a powerful way to open up a team-building event.
  4. Prompts work differently for everyone: Some people felt more creative leeway when they only had one die to work with, while others preferred the challenge of working with multiple dice. This reminded me of how differently our brains work, and how prompts like this are not one-size-fits all.

Art Dice and Creative Confidence

In Creative Confidence, the authors write,

creative confidence quote

I would venture to say that creative prompts like Art Dice encourage mistake-making in a safe environment. The stakes are low, and mistakes hold the capacity to lead to new ideas.

When we talked about how Art Dice could be used as a team-building exercise, I kept thinking about how prompts like art dice have the capacity to break down cultural norms and allow us to experience our own unlimited potential.

One interpretation is not necessarily better than another, and one person’s unique interpretation can inspire another person’s way of thinking.

What do you think? Would you like to have a set of art dice to experiment with?

You can learn more about Creative Confidence or order a copy today.

A Freebie and a Giveaway!

If you’ve read this far, you’re in for a treat. I was gifted an extra copy of Creative Confidence, and I’d like to share it with one of my readers.

In addition, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked about where the Art Dice can be purchased. In response to that, and as a thank you for putting experimentation, tinkering, and hands-on making first, we’d like to offer our loyal readers a free download of our Art Dice, exactly like the ones shared in this post.

These opportunities are only offered to our fabulous newsletter subscribers.

Details will be sent in our next newsletter, so subscribe today and stay tuned for more details! This is a limited time offer, so don’t delay!

Note: This post contains affiliate links, but we only share links to products that we love and/or that we think you’ll find useful.


Failure is Not Trying

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”

– Henry Ford

What do you think about failure? Do you encourage your child to make mistakes? Do you celebrate attempts to try new things? Do you share your own failed attempts freely with your child?

failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently

Last night was Back to School Night at my new kindergartener’s school. The principal gave a motivating talk about the importance of extending the school’s core values into our children’s home lives as a way to reinforce the home-school connection.

At the end of the presentation the principal talked about failure, and how we should encourage our children to work hard to achieve their ideas and goals in spite of their lack of knowledge. If they don’t know how to do something, they shouldn’t see this as a limitation but as an opportunity to fail forward as they learn through the process of trying.

As you can imagine, I LOVED this talk and felt so grateful that my daughter landed in an environment with such entrepreneurial spirit at its heart.

At the end of the talk, they shared a link to an interview with the youngest female self-made billionaire, Sarah Blakely (founder of Spanx), who discussed her journey with ABC News. Whatever you might think of Spanx (I don’t own any myself), you’ll appreciate how her father redefined the word failure for her and her brother. 

“We would sit around the dining room table at night and he would say, ‘OK, kids, what did you fail at today?’ I would say, ‘Dad, I tried out for this sport and I was horrible,’ and he would say ‘way to go,’ and high five me. And it completely reset my definition of failure. So, for my brother and me, failure is not trying.”

Sadly, I can’t embed the video here, but you can watch it here. And if you find her story motivating, here’s a link to Sarah Blakely on YouTube. 

Parents and Teachers as Co-Learners

It’s so important to model our own failures to our children. If children don’t see us struggle as we try new things, and in turn find ways to overcome setbacks, how can we ever expect them to do the same?

When was the last time you celebrated a failure with a child? Not too long ago I baked a new recipe with my kids. We thought we could alter the recipe to use up some of our pantry ingredients and talked about experimentation as we went along. In end the recipe was a disaster, but it was a fantastic opportunity to discuss how we could do it differently next time. Some of the things that came up: follow the recipe more closely, take more time with fewer distractions, and don’t use so much pumpkin.

If you’re interested in this topic, you might enjoy this post on failure.

A question for you:

When was the last time you tried something new? Did you succeed on your first attempt? If not, what did you have to do in order to achieve your goal?

Bird Seed Sensory Box

I’m always happy to have cheap, simple, educational, and entertaining activities for my kids, and I know a lot of teachers who feel the same way. How about you?

I learned this bird seed trick from one of my daughter’s first preschool teachers, and I’m happy to pass it along to you.

I LOVE cheap, simple, educational, and entertaining outdoor activities like this for my kids (great for toddlers and preschoolers).

Bird Seed Sensory Box

Step 1: Pour in the bird seed.

Tip #1: Do this outside. Bird seed will spill everywhere and you’ll be grateful that it’s not all over your carpet.

pouring bird seed sensory tableStep 2: Play

Simple, right?

Tip #2: If you have a lot squirrels in your area, cover your bird seed table at night to discourage those pesky foragers from finding their next meal in your bird seed oasis.

sensory table with bird seed scoopingTip #3: The bird seed lasts indefinitely, and when your child is done with it you can use it to, um, feed birds! Nothing is wasted here, friends!

sensory table with bird seed

If you like to keep your projects in a recipe box or binder, feel free to print this nifty card that has all the info in one easy-to-read place:

Bird Seed Sensory Box
Recipe type: Toddler and Preschool Sensory
Prep time:
Total time:
Set up a fun sensory experience that encourages hand-eye coordination and helps children explore measurement and volume.
  • Bags of Bird Seed
  • High Wall Water Table or Under-the-bed storage box
  • Tools such as scoopers, spoons, and bowls
  • Access to natural materials such as flowers and twigs
  1. Fill a water table with bird seed. We used three 16 oz bags, but could have easily used more.
  2. Offer your child some tools to scoop and pour the seeds.
  3. Encourage your child to bring natural materials to the table and build fairy homes/ design seascapes/make natural patterns.

And if you like this activity, you can give it some love by clicking on a whole bunch of stars with a comment below. Thanks!

More sensory materials

Wheat Berries — like bird seed, just different.

Wet Paper — soak some paper and tear it up.

Water Beads — our second most popular post.

Cloud Dough — our most popular post!

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A question for you

What do you find is the most challenging thing about setting up sensory experiences for your child?

10 Ways to Have Creative Fun with your Kids this Summer

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”   – Henry James, Author

10 ways to have creative fun with your kids this summer from Tinkerlab

Today is the last day of school for my kids before the start of summer.

Not only is summer a school-free time for many children, but it can also mean warm weather, long car trips, digging up lots of beach sand, and long empty hours to lollygag (my favorite pastime).

While we often think of creative activities for kids as easel painting or drawing, getting outdoors fills children with new ideas, an imaginative spirit, and a thirst for life that will give children fodder for their ideas and art making.

Here are ten simple ways to have creative fun with your kids this summer:

10 Ways to Have a Creative Summer with Kids | Tinkerlab

1. At the Beach. While many parents look forward to beach trips as an opportunity to relax while the kids play (me, me!!), you can take comfort in the fact that while children play they are filling their brains with the sensory experiences of playing with sand, architectural processes of building castles, and physics lessons in how waves and tides move. We love the beach as a spot for the creative adventures that always go along with tidepooling, and look forward to trying our hands at sandcasting with plaster of paris (via The Artful Parent).

DIY Travel Coloring Station | Modern Parents Messy Kids

2. During Long Car Trips. Are you dreading planning a long car trip this summer? While DVD’s do wonders for keeping backseat bickering at bay, hands-on activities not only keep the mind active, but they can encourage long, uninterrupted spells of creativity as well.

We always put together a travel art kit like the Itty Bitty Art Kit for Little Travelers. These are a key to happiness, both on the road and once we’re at our destination.

To keep everyone’s mind occupied and on the same page, you’ll enjoy this awesome list from MPMK of audio books that the whole family can enjoy.

MPMK also shares the brilliant idea of making a DIY Car traveling station (photo, above). It’s magnetized so that materials won’t fly all over the car. Once you see this you won’t want to go back to your old methods.

Related to that, The Imagination Tree shares this how you can repurpose a simple plastic tray into a drawing station with window crayons with this clever DIY Portable art board.

Backyard Camping | Modern Parents Messy Kids

3. At the Campground. Getting outdoors and taking adventures do wonders for eliciting creative thinking. If you don’t have any grand plans for camping this summer, not to worry because you can always pitch a Tent in the backyard and make sun-baked s’mores (via Kids Stuff World) on a hot day with creature comforts not too far away. Mmm.

Now, if you can actually manage to pack up all your gear and head out to the woods, This Mama Makes Stuff offers some sage advice on how to make the most of camping with kids. The Creative Homemaker shares a Happy Camper Scavenger Hunt  (with a free printable that’s super cute) that will encourage children to look carefully at the world around them.

outdoor adventure

4. Around the Neighborhood. 

Speaking of scavenger hunts, you don’t have to go very far to find cool things to look at. Just walk out your front door with a camera and you’re ready to take a rainbow scavenger hunt or any other sort of scavenger hunt you can dream up.


5. On the Hiking Trail.

And then we can always kick scavenger hunts up a notch!

Have you ever been geocaching? When geocaching was first introduced back in 2001, I was one of the first people to go out and buy a GPS. And my husband laughed at me. We planted one of the oldest caches in Southern California and then the first cache in Indonesia, and wouldn’t you know that they’re both still there!

Now geocaching is so easy and affordable with phone-based apps like the Geocaching App for the iPhone. This activity gets kids moving and encourages them think hard as they go back and forth between connecting coordinates with real-world landmarks. Not only that, but it’s fun for everyone in the family.

I can’t recommend it enough. Hmm, all this cache talk reminds me that it’s been ages since we’ve hit the trail. I’m adding this to our summer list!

climbing trees | tinkerlab

6. At the Park

Did you know that climbing trees can support creative thinking?

And then there’s the DIY Art Camp. If the weather is nice, why not invite your friends to join you for some art-making at the park? A couple summers ago we hosted a summer art afternoon for some friends. After a picnic (kids need fuel for the brains), we made sand paintings, paper bag crowns, and summer fireworks tote bags.  

7. On the Lake

Put engineering skills to work by making your own boats like these from NurtureStore, and then test them in the lake, pool, or stream.

plant a garden with kids

8. In the Garden

Whether you have a large plot of land or a tiny patio, a short walk out your own front door into the fresh air gives children a low-threshold opportunity to get close to nature. You could try making your own Water Wall, planting a Garden with  the Kids, easy outdoor water painting, set up an impromptu garden art studio, or make fairy gardens for your resident gnomes and keepers of pixie dust.

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

9. On the Plane

Make a stack of these matching games (photo above) ahead of time.

If you’re traveling with a Lego-fan, and you have some skill with a sewing machine, this fabric tray Lego base is gorgeous and brilliant. Now if only there were a way to wrangle all those Legos on the plane!

Before you travel, your child may enjoy pretending that he or she is taking a trip or setting up a travel agency. This does wonders for building excitement (as seen in these pictures!).

take an adventure trip

10. On an Adventure

Have you ever organized or gone on a mystery trip? They’re so fun, and can make even the most ordinary outing an adventure. On this recent trip to San Francisco, my husband wanted to introduce us to a Smitten, an ice cream shop that makes fresh ice cream, while you wait, with liquid nitrogen. Cool! (sorry I couldn’t help myself).

Adding to the cool factor, Smitten is located in a recycled shipping container in one of our favorite spots for people watching. Scott kept the whole thing to himself and then wowed my 4-year old with the adventure of watching her ice cream come to life.

To arrange a mystery trip, announce that you’re planning one, let your party know if they need to come prepared with any special clothes, snacks, or other creature comforts. And then hit the road!

get outdoors

On that note, enjoy the great outdoors and know that that spending time outside is one of the best things you can do for a child. 

I’ll leave you with this quote from playwright Henry Miller:

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” 

Simple Matching Sticker Game

The human brain is an incredible pattern-matching machine. 

– Jeff Bezos, founder of

Matching objects or shapes is a skill that can help children in so many areas of their lives. The process of matching images and symbols is a precursor to matching combinations of letters to words, and this, of course, is a pre-reading skill. Matching is also useful for developing math skills, as understanding one-to-one correspondence teaches spatial reasoning and pattern recognition. 

Fun for travel

If you have any big trips planned, make a stack of these ahead of time and bring them along for a surprise game that might keep your child entertained through a flight’s take-off or during a long road trip.

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab


  • Stickers: at least two of each kind
  • Plain paper
  • Maker, crayon, or pencil

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab


Place the stickers in columns on two sides of the paper. Mix them up. Offer your child a pen or crayon and invite him to make lines that connect the matching images.

Matching Sticker Game Trader Joes

We always pick up stickers at Trader Joe’s — they’re perfect for this project!

Matching Sticker Game Hand Drawn

If you don’t have any stickers, not to worry! This project can be done with some simple sketches. I’ve done this with simple shapes (circle, square, triangle, etc.) and a variety of expressions (happy, sad, surprised).

More Ideas

  • For emergent readers: Make one column of stickers and then in the other column, write words that match the stickers.
  • Rather than use columns, draw pairs of shapes or attach stickers in random spots around the piece of paper.

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